Our gut health is a vital part of our wellbeing – and if it’s not balanced, then it’s been shown to affect the whole body. Alison Stockton has spent the last 25 years supporting women in all areas of health and wellbeing. She is the Founder of Vibrant Balanced Health (www.vibrantbalancedhealth.com) and recommends the following seven steps so you can be, and feel in control, so you lead a vibrant life from the inside out.

Alison Stockton

Alison Stockton

Gut health has recently gained more awareness due to its important role in the entire body. It not only helps with the healthy function of your brain, but helps regulate your hormones, and boosts your immunity. One crucial thing to remember is that your microbiome is unique to you and what you do or don't eat could be harming or healing to you.

The health of your gut also supports trillions of bacteria and microbes all over your body, so we need to look after them (aka you) well. Food, mindfulness, and movement support a healthy gut. Interestingly, the food that you eat greatly affects the types of bacteria that live inside you, but so too does stress levels!

1. Oral hygiene is key to gut health and keeping too many bacteria in your mouth affects things such as hydrochloric acid and enzymes, which are needed to break down foods. So, make sure that you chew your food well, and try oil pulling every day for oral health. This is an ancient Ayurvedic dental technique that involves swishing a tablespoon of oil in your mouth on an empty stomach for around 20 minutes a day.

2. Probiotic supplements are not always the best idea because, they may aggravate your gut rather that helping you. It depends on if you have leaky gut symptoms, including bloating, pain after certain foods, brain fog or autoimmune issues. If you have any of these and you take a random probiotic you may increase the leaky gut symptoms. If you don’t have these symptoms, always look for a really good quality pro-biotic and seek advice from a functional medicine practitioner to help figure out what you need. Eating a good quality natural yoghurt, kefir or kimchi can also help.

3. Eat a diverse range of foods. There are hundreds of species of bacteria in your intestines. Each species plays a different role in your health and requires different nutrients for growth. Don’t be alarmed – we need these - a diverse microbiota is a healthy one. A diverse diet means including vegetables, fruits, good proteins, good fats, and fibre. It's estimated that 75% of the world’s food is produced from only 12 plant and five animal species and there are so many more varieties, so switch it up. Try to look at including 10 fruits/vegetables in your diet a day on a 3/7 ratio, good fats, fiber rich foods and good quality water. Apples, artichokes, blueberries, almonds, and pistachios have all been shown to increase Bifidobacterium in humans. The following also help to support gut health and protect against certain diseases, reduce blood pressure and cardiovascular disease:

· grapes

· broccoli

· dark chocolate

· cacao

· berries

· nuts

· red wine (in moderation of course)

4. Prebiotic foods are fibre rich foods and essential for great gut health and contain healthy Bifidobacterium. Some high-fibre foods that are good for your gut bacteria include:

· Raspberries

· Artichokes

· Green peas

· Broccoli

· Chickpeas

· Lentils

· Beans (kidney, pinto and white)

· Whole grains / seeds such as flax and chia.

5. Try fermented foods. I'm not talking about pickled vegetables on a burger! Fermented foods are foods altered by microbes. They have been used for thousands of years to preserve fruits and vegetables all over the world and began as far back as 6000BC. Studies show that fermented foods help support our healthy microbiome. Examples of fermented foods include:

· Yogurt

· Kimchi (fermented veg)

· Sauerkraut (home-made style)

· Kefir (cultures)

· Kombucha (check sugar levels if store bought)

· Tempeh (fermented organic soy)

· Sour dough

Many of these foods are rich in lactobacilli, a type of bacteria that can benefit your health (but they may also aggravate your gut if the bacteria are in the wrong place. People who eat a lot of good quality yogurt, (fermented/cultured) with no added sweeteners appear to have more lactobacilli in their intestines and have fewer Enterobacteriaceae, a bacterium associated with inflammation and several chronic diseases.

6. Avoid eating too many artificial sweeteners and refined carbs. Artificial sweeteners are widely used as replacements for sugar. They are synthetically made and rather harmful to the body and the microbiome. Highly refined foods with gluten and sugars as well as yeast can also negatively disrupt the healthy balance of microbes and increase leaky gut symptoms.

7. Movement is also key for a healthy gut. When we move regularly, we support the digestive system by what’s known as peristalsis (basically the pumping action in your colon to enable you to poop regularly). Moving your body supports the healthy movement of MMC (Migrating Motor complex) and your digestive organs so that they don't become sluggish. So, ensure you move regularly each day. By moving regularly and supporting a healthy gut, you are also better able to produce healthy levels of the neuro-transmitter serotonin (80% is produced in the gut {if healthy}. Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilises our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. This hormone impacts your entire body. It enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other as well as helping with sleeping, eating, and digestion. So, movement, nourishment and nutrition are just a few ways to support your gut and improve the trillions of microbiomes in your body. www.vibrantbalancedhealth.com